It’s just as well one can never have too many shoot-'em-ups, because, no bones about it, Raging Blasters is absolutely fantastic. A Japan-only release on Switch (though available on Steam) that's magically entirely in English from top to bottom, this is the kind of indie-gaming labour of love that deserves a great lungful of hilltop-screaming. Breakneck paced with rarely any let-up, Raging Blasters is a love letter to Compile shmups that borrows heavily from the likes of Zanac.
Its presentation is superb, from the character designs to the beautifully colourful graphics and racing parallax. There’s a nice weight to the various craft and explosions, complimented by crackling sound effects. While the rolling backgrounds are simple in theme and very reminiscent of Zanac Neo’s opening stage (PS1), their deep-space tech elements are nonetheless rendered with attractive artistic heft and lovely colour casting.
Special mention has to go to the soundtrack. Strap in and set your headphones to max: this is an aural barnstormer that positively lights up your senses. And, as if it wasn’t ridiculously good already, an honestly-too-cool-for-school chiptune arrange version can be selected from within the options screen.
There are two character options, both of whom play identically, used for either co-op play or the special ‘Dual Play’ mode. Dual play, if you’re unaware, is a niche designed for hardcore maniacs who want to control both ships simultaneously in single player mode, popularised in arcades by people who would take challenge intravenously if they could. Additionally, a Caravan Mode has been included, which makes sense considering Raging Blaster’s obvious inspirations. Caravan Modes, oft seen in the PC Engine’s shmup catalogue, are intense, carefully engineered three-minute score challenges, now with online leaderboards for a global spin.
Very friendly for genre newcomers to get engaged with, here, ‘Normal’ difficulty is actually just that, as opposed to most shmups’ default settings being geared toward players already hardened to the genre. It’s a very easy and enjoyable initial 1CC (one-credit clear) that acts as a satisfying training platform before you take on Hard and Expert modes, where dodging becomes more pressing and scoring more involving.
Mechanically, Raging Blasters is nice and simple. Your ship touts a forward shot and a wide shot as standard, and the ability to change the ship’s speed at will. An assortment of weapon icons constantly rain down: lasers, wave guns, fireballs, protective rings and homing missiles, all dealing with strings of enemy formations in unique and often advantageous ways. Learning how to utilise weaponry is half the fun, and the game demands experimentation in smart ways. A good example is stage three’s revolving, laser toting boss, who goes down fastest with a pairing of the wide shot and homing missiles.
Each of Raging Blaster’s stages features two boss encounters that are full of visual energy, with increasingly interesting patterns and movements that make good use of the screen’s space. They’re generally very easy on defaults, and score-based 1-ups are doled out generously as you chain enemies and destroy complete waves. If you’re a DoDonPachi veteran having nightmare flashbacks, relax: Raging Blaster’s chaining is easy, enjoyable and segmented, allowing a decent amount of downtime between kills before the chain is lost. Learning enemy patterns, as well as experimenting with weaponry, is key to strategising, whereby you tie chains together and hoover up gem clouds from successfully destroyed formations. And, if scoring isn’t your thing, you can just get on with the joys of mindless destruction.
Being mostly the work of just one man — a developer known as Terarin — it’s striking how well-tuned it all is. Nothing feels haphazard or clunky, and the balancing lands just right. That Terarin listened carefully to more than 20 testers and tweaked the game accordingly with every new beta build really shows his dedication to the art.
If you liked the look and feel of M2’s GG Aleste 3 — a Game Gear homage released at the end of 2020 — you’ll positively adore this. What’s even more incredible, is, while that release arrived with plenty of fanfare and hype, Raging Blasters is a relative unknown that might actually marginally out-Compile M2’s triple-A effort.
It’s a rare day that an indie shmup, so well-buried that most have never heard of it, manages to be this good at what it does. It hasn’t got vast worlds to soar over, nor does it try to break new ground. Instead, it delivers an old-school shmup experience in a fresh new way, fired up on influence and ambition, and the love of a genre. Fans would be raging mad not to pick it up.
Looks really nice! Considering shoot them ups tend to be on the expensive side, I'm pretty happy to know it's 50% off in the Japanese eshop NOW. Maybe there's no better time to grab it
As much as I love shoot them ups, I awesomely suck st most of them, so the "simplicity" and the wide range of difficulty settings are a plus for me
Looks like it was inspired by Sapphire, might check this one out!
This looks solid AF. I love how you can see the pilot's face in the cockpit off to the side... Anyone know if that expresses at all? Like when I get hit or during a boss battle, does the face start to get nervous-looking or enraged? Or like, when I fire weapons the face lights up.... That would be awesome and a really cool touch for this game or a future one someday.
I’m totally going to buy this later.
Compile is my favorite shoot'em up dev so I'll get this right away. I wish more Compile games would come to Switch (and Parodius!)!
@ChromaticDracula No, your face doesn't change. That would be awesome, but know that this game is completely awesome the way it is!
What an awesome game! If you play the second stage and aren't thrilled with the music and graphics, then you can't really say you like shoot'em ups! It really does feel like it could've been developed by Compile in the 1980s. That's like the biggest compliment I could give a shooter. I had this game hearted (on my wishlist on my Japanese eshop account), so I must have heard of it from a youtube review or something. Anyways, thanks for the review, which got me to actually buy it!
@ChromaticDracula IIRC, the pilot faces in Project Starship X do change as they take damage.
Not to be confused with Project Starship. The sequel is the one with the X in the name. First game is OK but the sequel is regarded as vastly better.
Nice one, glad to see this getting a review. We were just talking about this game on our shmup Discord the other day and I said I'd pick it up the next time it goes on sale. Going by the first comment, it seems that time is now. Love the Aleste series.
Now I just wish someone, anyone (ideally M2 though) would give some love to one of my all time favourites, Robo Aleste and give it the re-release it deserves. It's too good of a shooter to be left as a MEGA-CD only game.
Edit - I just bought it, looking forward to playing it tomorrow.
@120frames-please I’m hoping this comes west otherwise this will be the one that makes me create that Japanese region account finally haha
@sfb I just looked that up. Looks quirky (not in a bad way)!
I own it on Steam, but wouldn't mind double-dipping on the Switch copy if it gets a Western release...
Looks like a Hudson shooter on the Snes
Got it from the JP eShop, it's definitely a nice little shmup.
Another one that deserves a import review is Illvelo Swamp.
It's a great Shmup that's very welcoming to novices. I've now double dipped to get the switch version.
On the European store you can fine Missile Dancer and Gemini Arms on sales from the same developer. Haven't tried Gemini Arms yet, but if it matches other Terarin games, it will be a treat.
Seen this on a YouTube channel the other week. Couldn't find it on eshop. Now I know why, because its only on the Japanese eshop:(
This is quality stuff, love it. I had to increase it to hard after a few minutes as I was finding it too easy but then remembered it was mentioned in the review. Now it's just right for me. The HD Rumble is well done, I think it really adds to the experience
@martapp I never knew about Gemini Arms until I read your comment and I hadn't realised Missile Dancer got a European release. Over a year ago too, how did I miss that! I'm on the E-shop now, I think I'll take a punt on Gemini Arms too. The idea of controlling a transforming ship/robot sounds really cool. Cheers for the tip and I'll let you know what I think of Gemini Arms.
@OorWullie, I took also took that punt right after I wrote the comment. I've had about an hour or two with it, and it's a very enjoyable horizontal Shmup. The three different fire modes with the strongest one on a cool down timer adds some surprising depth. Stylistically it's like most of the terrain games - simple graphics, but the gameplay is there. If you have an android phone, search for terarin to find 4 more completely free games with no ads.
@Axelay71, its coming to the Western eshops later this year. If you can't wait, make a Japanese eshop account, grab 1000yen eshop card from playasia, then buy it for 990yen - I didn't it all in about 10 minutes and had zero issues.
@martapp thanks for the heads up appreciate it:)
The title sounds like a night after Taco Bell.
@ChromaticDracula can just change the region in your account. No need for a new Nintendo account
"You have been selected for a mission of the utmost secrecy. Your mission is to destroy the enemy. Good luck!"
Yeah, somebody definitely set us up the bomb again! We should make our time.
Love the 4 Terarin games I've played so far - Image Striker, Missile Dancer, Raging Blasters and Moon Dancer.
Moon Dancer's on the JP eShop now. It's def up there with Raging Blasters.
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